Driving along streets made cinematic with the golden light of sunshine through yellow ash and orange maple, we listen to music and inhale the scent of freshly opened bags of candy. You are already disguised for the day, my Little Red Riding Hood and sweet Hex Girl. The morning stretches before us, with a party and a pumpkin patch and pizza for lunch. The puppy stretches between us, back legs between your car seats and tail swishing between one's left ear and the other's right, and her front legs on my arm rest, turning her head occasionally and poking my ear with her wet nose. When we finally arrive I open my car door, only to have it pushed back at me with the wind rushing over a corn-stubbled field. The sunshine was the Trick: the day is much colder than it looked through my windows. The Treats aren't hard to spot, either. One leans her head against my hip, matching her gait to mine, and the other tugs my hand, pulling me forward into whatever the day holds.
I re-read my Halloween post from last year, and marvel at how little has changed, at how little I have changed, after a year that should have been transformative. My post last year was tinged with the worry I felt, almost irrationally, at the upcoming surgery. After all, the surgery planned then had a very good chance of success and a reassuringly low mortality rate. And, yet, so much went unexpectedly wrong. So now here we are again, worrying once more about another surgery, this one far more dangerous. This time we don't even know when it might happen, or what might come before or after. We're stepping into the fog this year, and hoping we find the bridge back to the island, step after ginger step.
Tomorrow is the first day of November. Annika has made it through this first phase of waiting, putting enough time between her last surgery and the next. Sometime soon, she should be re-activated on the transplant list, where she's sat for the past months, listed but deemed too high-risk to transplant. Tomorrow changes all that. Her case will be discussed again at the transplant pow-wow in Chicago this month. We'll need to re-pack bags to have by the door.
It all starts again with this new month.
The maple tree the girls and I planted this time last year died from neglect. It's hard to water a tree from a PICU room 180 miles away from home. We kept watching the little tree's bare branches hopefully all through the spring, waiting for the buds to finally break. I think we gave up finally sometime in July, so patient and hopeful are we. I planted another tree in its place a few weeks ago, a flowering pear this time around. My cousin once told me that his mom loved her backyard pear tree most of all, so it seemed a good choice. I planted 3 other trees in the yard, too, since the local hardware store was offering them for only $7 each. They are small, and I know they might not all make it, but that is the way of the garden.
I don't think we'll be moving from this house. That urge to escape, which scrabbled at my chest like a tiny mouse clawing against a glass cage, has eased. I'm no longer fooling myself into thinking I can improve life with a real-estate contract. Annika loved the idea of moving, but when I asked her how she wanted to decorate her new room, she looked at me as if the few marbles I had rattling about in my head had just dribbled right out of my ear. "I want it to look exactly the same. Just like it does now."
And that's what life is like around here. I think I am the river bubbling along chaotically, with wild swirls and eddies and rocks jutting out dangerously, all drama and action and changeability. But really I am just the willow at the bank, with the ends of my branches pulling just barely in the flow around me.
So tonight we went trick-or-treating, just like last year. This year, Annika only made it to 5 houses before she announced that she was ready to return home. But the other two girls, Frankie and our neighbor, Sabrina, were just getting started. So I pulled Annika along in the wagon while Sabrina and Frankie ran ahead to ring doorbells. Annika and I talked about pumpkins and spiders and bats. We talked about what her costume will be next year. And while I was getting ready to feel sorry for her that she was missing out on trick-or-treating, I realized that this was the celebration for her. Riding along in a wagon, bundled up in a lovely new hand-me-down coat from Sabrina, her hair sprayed green and a witch's hat perched on top of her new coat's hood.
It's OK to adjust your expectations in life. Everybody does it, right? Who cares if you come home with your pumpkin basket not even a quarter full, if you got to ride around our neighborhood, where people love halloween? At the end of the evening, we didn't count or sort the candy. We didn't compare Frankie's much heavier basket to Annika's. But we did talk about which house had the coolest decorations. Frankie liked the one where the guy had a witch puppet that talked to the kids. Annika liked the one where the woman stood on her front porch, wrapped up as a mummy with a black light shining down on her spookily.
In two hours, November will begin. We are ready.